Team EnergyStar: Teaching Kids Energy Isn’t Limitless

nissin-top-ramen-oriental-flavorWhen I was in college, one of my pals got a check from the State of California each semester to cover additional living costs as part of his scholarship. I don’t remember much about the details, but I distinctly remember one semester when he decided he’d spend it on a big TV. He scraped by – barely – on Top Ramen. Every night, that’s what he’d eat (it’s about $0.25/meal) and we’d all gather at his place and watch TV and movies. He really did have a very nice television.

Zoom forward many years and that sort of “don’t worry, consume” philosophy is very much alive and well in our Western economy. Look at the stats and you’ll find something very interesting. First, a welfare number, according to the US Census Bureau [PDF]: 15.9 percent of the US population has income below the poverty level. Meanwhile Nielsen reports that the “percent of U.S. homes with a television set is 96.7 percent” and TV Technology reports that “75 percent of households in the United States have at least one high definition television set”. We want, we buy and somehow things work out.

energystar-logoNow let’s go back in time just a little bit to 1992, when the Environmental Protection Agency introduced a voluntary labeling system called EnergyStar. At that point we all viewed energy as limitless. It was like water in the pipe: just flip the switch and you were good to go, whether you’d plugged in an energy efficient lamp or a greedy guzzler microwave or fridge. When my college pal bought that fancy TV he sure wasn’t thinking about energy bills, I know that for sure.

With over 20,000 home builders, consumer electronics manufacturers and other companies now participating, there’s no question that EnergyStar has been a massive success and, by their estimates, has saved the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent of 50 million cars (and $24 billion in utility bills). In 2012 alone.

When I buy appliances or electronics, I always check the EnergyStar label to try and find one that consumes the minimum amount of electricity. Everything being equal, why wouldn’t you want the most energy efficient appliance you can buy?

The challenge is teaching children about energy efficiency, because the truth is that while the EnergyStar program is a success, it’s not enough. For us to smartly marshall our energy resources, minimize the amount of coal mined, turbines spun, solar panels installed, and wires criss-crossing our communities, we need to all put in the conscious effort to turn off lights, run appliances at low-energy periods and much more. Teaching kids to flip off the TV if they’re not in the room, unplug devices once charged to avoid “vampire power”, close doors when the air conditioning is on, flip switches to “off” on the way out of a room, etc etc etc, ain’t easy.

TeamES_FacebookBadgeHeck, I think one of my kids favorite pastimes is to meditate in front of the fridge. I see them do this all the time: They open up the fridge and just stand there in the cool, bright light bathing their faces, as they… what? Ponder what to eat? Peruse the shelves for a hidden treat? It’s a huge waste of energy, no question.

To help my family learn to be more energy efficient requires more than just a nagging Dad. That’s very clear!


Enter the Team EnergyStar program, a new EPA promotion that taps into the imagery of the film EPIC to create a program that helps us parents teach our children the value and benefit of energy awareness and efficiency. Even better, there’s a pledge that families can take and, through the sponsorship of LG, you can actually win not just an HDTV and Blu-Ray player but something to watch on your new EnergyStar super energy efficient TV too: a copy of the movie.

In fact, jump over and sign that pledge quick: the first 250 families to do so win a free DVD. That’s a nice perk, I’d say.

This isn’t about winning stuff, though, it’s about saving energy. Specifically saving our planet because there ain’t no warranty or AppleCare on it. Once we’re done, well, we’re hosed.

According to EPA research, if every household in the United States of America took the Team EnergyStar Pledge, we’d save a staggering 130 billion KWhr/yr of electricity, a reduction of about 21 million cars worth of greenhouse emissions from our predominantly fossil-fuel power plants and — here’s the bit for us parents — save a total of $23 billion in energy costs. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So don’t just sit here and read my blog post. Talk with your kids, sign the pledge and start saving energy already!

Here are a few ideas for what your kids can pledge to save energy:

  • I unplug electronics and battery chargers when they are finished charging so I don’t waste extra energy.
  • I plant a tree to create shade and reduce greenhouse gases since trees breathe carbon dioxide.
  • I walk, ride a bike, or skateboard instead of using a car to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
  • I keep doors and windows closed when the air-conditioning or heat is on.

As for me, it’s time for a family meeting about power switches, fridge meditation, open doors while the house temp is diff to the outside temp, and the rest of the simple steps needed to lower our own energy footprint and bill.

Disclaimer: Dadlabs (who produced this funny video about the campaign too) asked me to blog about the Team EnergyStar program and by doing so, I’m now in the running for an energy efficient LG television. They aren’t, apparently, going to supply me with Top Ramen to go with it, however. Thank goodness.

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